I’m sat in the lobby of the same hostel I stayed in on my last visit to Bangkok a few weeks before. Back then I didn’t have the foundations fully constructed before a huge earthquake struck and shattered my head to pieces. I had an idea that damage was coming and that’s why I was trying to mentally protect myself. Natural disasters will destroy everything though, even if you think you’re safe.
I was relieved to be heading south, where the orange glow illuminates your face from the sun off the sea, and not car windows in Bangkok traffic. I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it once more – the sound of waves crashing onto the beach makes me feel home. When I settle into a quiet moment my body habitually inhales a deep breath of air and exhales anything negative that’s built up inside. 2 weeks of mostly nothingness, a splash of diary writing and a little bit of future brainstorming.
Krabi Town doesn’t have a beach but Ao Nang and Railay were only a 20 minute bus ride or a long tail boat ride away, which I’d do the day after my arrival, so it wasn’t too bad. The hostel I would lay my head to rest had a school theme to it, I was staying in the P.E room and could select a bed assigned to a sport. All the good ones (the bottom bunks) were taken so tennis it had to be. Other rooms were English, Maths, Art. It was pretty cool. Much like Nolo (except for the close family like love it had), the hostel put on activities each day for guests to sign up for, the day I arrived was a cheapish trip to The Tiger Cave Temple… basically a fuck off huge climb up a cliff. Before heading out on the trip I wasn’t quite feeling like socialising, there was a grey cloud hovering over my head darkening by the second and getting ready to burst. However, during the car journey the woman from the hostel chatted with me about the amount of love she has for her daughter and the fear of her baby growing older. The 15 of us gathered around the bottom of the temple and had a prep talk from the Thai woman (I never asked her name), she told us that there were 1,236 step to the top and that the quickest time yet was 11 minutes with the female time being 20. Having confidently climbed The Great Wall a few times and Mt. Zwekabin in Hpa-An I could sense that my competitive side was going to make an appearance. Within seconds I had already lost sight of a sky scraping blonde guy and a heavily bearded brunette guy because they’d zoomed off. My thigh muscles started off pretty strong, each step hoisting my sweaty body higher and higher. Two other women were climbing at my speed too – Taylor, a sweet American woman my age and another, whether it was Sophie from Belgium or “Canada” the blonde guy’s girlfriend I can’t remember.
Taylor and I chatted, through heaving lungs, about running competitively and it struck me how little thought I’d put into it recently. Whilst I run to maintain and develop the body shape I want I used to really love competing in races, even though I’ve only done a handful. Taking up competitive running is something I really want to do when I’m home and it’s not going to go smoothly if I don’t push and motivate myself to get out and run. It’s really easy to get caught up in socialising, drinking and lazy lie-ins when you’re in amazing places. Taylor’s ambition to push herself harder when racing has been a huge kick up the ass to wake up early and run. It’s a super sick way to see the places I’m in too.
Asian staircases are designed to turn the simplest of climbs into hard physical endurance like that of ascending Mount Everest. Steps meet the needs of tiny footed Asians with their width and basketball players in their depth. It’s a strange combination. Each single legged haul up the stairs reprimanded me for not wearing smog masks in Beijing. I kept pace but I sounded like Wheezy from Toy Story as I did.
The three of us women conquered the climb in 18 minutes, absolutely smashing the original female record. The guys who had bolted off were at the top waiting and greeted us with high-fives as they (we all) smiled through sweaty brows. Viewpoint sunsets are just incredible especially if the clouds decide they want play tricks in the sky. This one in particular sank below the grey and blue hues of hills in the distance and tickled the huge golden buddha at the top with its pink and orange glow.
That same evening the group of us that hiked the hill wandered down to the weekend night market. Night Markets across South East Asia are very similar wherever you go – rows and rows of tents with narrow lanes for pedestrians connecting them all; the smell of local food filling the air, wafting into your nostrils and churning up hunger from within (that sentence get like deja vu, perhaps I’ve written it before); tables full of knick knack souvenir crap and racks of fake branded clothing. This market, however, had a stage open for anyone to show off their talent. A small bunch of local kids took to the stage at one point and gave it their all. One kid took the mic as the other 3 smaller ones cut some sick shapes. The group of us made an orderly line to squeeze our way through the market when the tall blonde Canadian (I don’t remember his name either) passed by another tall guy and they both looked at each other and gave a slight nod. Like a “I see you fellow tall person and I respect you” nod, it was kind of special to see.
The following day Taylor, her friend Victoria, Sophie and I spent our day at the beach, chatting endlessly about life, love and feminist topics. Throughout the day though, the conversation would steer unhealthily towards weight and eating habits and began to make me feel incredibly uncomfortable about how I looked in my bikini at that moment. There was talk about calorie counting, which I used to do religiously when I dropped a shit ton of weight in 2016, and “running to burn calories and therefore granting yourself permission to drink a milkshake”. I wanted bury a hole in the sand right there, crawl in and let the tide come in and drown me. I not only felt completely gross with how I looked but also realised that how they were talking is EXACTLY how I talk about food and it’s so toxic (and draining for the people around you). Most people have bad relationships with food but voicing them and talking so toxically about them exposes your internal feelings towards different women and their bodies.
We wanted to get back to Krabi town by local bus because it’s super cheap so the first one we saw we flagged down and it pulled to a halt in front of us. A quick glance in the back told us how full it was but the Thai women got out to scooch everyone over for us. As I put one foot in the van a woman, who was an ABSOLUTE Karen, rolled her eyes and pulled a face. I immediately stepped out and was like “nope, definitely not they are very angry” and the people in the bus began whispering in what sounded like Russian. It was incredibly rude and was to be the first of a few more terrible encounters I’ve had with Russians. We waved down the next one which had enough room for the 4 of us, with the small print conditions being that two of us had to ride stood up on the back for 30 minutes. Victoria and I took one for the team and held on for dear life. It’s another of those “only in Asia” experiences which turned out to be really fun and with a lovely woman too.
Koh Phi Phi – this is where things began to head south, very south indeed. Phi Phi is actually a gorgeous little island that, if you climb to the view point, looks like an hour glass with the village sitting right in the middle. The village itself is densely packed with streets only big enough for the footfall of people and carts to transport produce. Phi Phi is not famous for its breathtaking scenery though, it is famous for how many pissed up rowdy tourists there are during high season. The kind of tourists that drink from dawn until dusk, disrespect the environment, get into fights and are just generally a bunch of loud inconsiderate assholes. Yes, I did go to a pool party with a group of people and feed into that economy but later that evening I became incredibly uncomfortable.
My first full day on Phi Phi was an absolute shit show. I connected with an American guy named Mandy on the boat to the island and he suggested going kayaking around the island for the day. The plan was to head to monkey beach then float around to the caves before heading back – we didn’t have much time because we started later than we wanted. On arriving at monkey beach I expressed to Mandy how uncomfortable I am with tourists’ obsession with feeding monkeys food or giving them beer. Tourists have made these monkeys aggressive by originally thinking it is hilarious to happily hand over their food. Now, the monkeys steal, fight and attack people to feed themselves with food that’s terrible for them. I, without thinking in the slightest, unpacked my beloved new find – wasabi peas – ready to scoff down. As soon as the packet opened I could see a huge monkey creeping behind Mandy in my peripheral vision. It had this terrifying determined look in its eye as it got closer. Within seconds it was climbing my leg and reaching for the packet that I refused to let go of (because I was hungry and didn’t want this little bastard to eat bad food/plastic). Mandy grabbed it and chucked it metres away from us and I erupted with panicky anger. “Why would you do that when I literally JUST told you that I didn’t want them to take food?” I shrieked as he looked at me in horror. Although there was a little bit of disappointment in him I had to apologise for completely overreacting. I was terrified and so was he – he was just trying to get the fucking thing off of me. To compensate for the loss of plastic I scoured the shoreline and picked up anything in my eyesight. He couldn’t grasp why I was doing it and asked whether this takes away from my “experience” on the beach. If you can make the smallest of difference then it matters and if people happen to be watching and it makes them think even better. He made made a joke out of me for it and later that day and a few days after too. I wasn’t impressed.
To calm down from the monkey palaver we took a stroll to the quiet part of the beach so we could smoke. YET AGAIN a monkey sauntered over and got super close, both Mandy and I thought the prick wanted the spliff but it grabbed the water, pierced it and began chugging. A second monkey approached, screeched in our faces and lunged towards Mandy’s leg, he jumped up and we both backed away as quickly as we could. It was terrifying. Everything inside me thought that it would attack him.
Finally, we settled down on a rock a little in the water and smoked. As each drag filled my lungs and the high seeped like poison to my head and the doubtful thoughts within grew louder and louder until they were screaming at me. I tried hard to listen to what Mandy was talking about but I couldn’t hear him over “the tide is coming in” “you should give up” “he doesn’t want to speak to you” swirling round and around. The thoughts from the high didn’t ease up in the slightest. We were in the middle of the sea, on course for the caves, when we both became very aware of the tide. Mandy, who is a very intense feelings and thought provoking person, took about 5 minutes describing why we should “in turn” say whether we really want to paddle back or head to the caves. In depth, like a philosopher, he explained that if 1 person is not having then the activity should not carry on whilst the whole time (as I was in the midst of the worst high) my feet were tapping wishing he’d just finish so we could start heading back. 10 minutes of silent paddling passed as my mind was about to burst. Mandy noticed and asked me if I was okay. I wasn’t and I said “I’m having a really bad overthinking high and I don’t like it”. Like I said, he is the kind of person that hooks onto a heavy thought and reels it out of you and that’s what he did – “talk me through it”. Big fucking mistake. I started rambling about how I felt towards the whole “cool boy in Bangkok who I changed my itinerary for” thing and choked up trying to battle the overspilling of tears, in the middle of the fucking ocean with a stranger, because I believe I’ve been cheated out of love or romance or something. It was a good thing Mandy was sat behind and not able to see how much I was crying. Yeah, it WAS classic travelling infatuation for sure but there is that part of me that clung onto just how easily we vibe with each other from the get go. For the next few weeks after this each time I woke up I couldn’t help but think about it and feel low EVEN THOUGH I know it’s stupid to let it take complete control over me whilst I’m doing this totally awesome thing. You don’t know when a natural disaster will occur because everything seems orderly and okay but when it does the aftermath is devastating and long lasting.
Days crossfaded after that and I felt numb amongst this big blurry mess of nothingness for the next 7 days. Over Christmas and New Year too. I was suddenly engulfed with the perfect storm this boy had conjured up inside of me and I couldn’t find a break of sunlight anywhere. Although I was meeting great people and going to really great parties my thoughts came back to that and held me back from other enjoyments.
I don’t quite know what it is with American men, or at least the ones I’ve met, but they’re really awful at trying to graft and really grind my gears. So, it’s Christmas eve and I’m at the pool party with Ian, a guy I met in Krabi who I played beer pong with under the team name Brexit, and his mates from home and we’re having the sickest time dancing and getting to know each other. A guy a few metres away is staring at me. He’s kind of attractive, mousy brown hair, beard and a moustache… looks like a younger less moody version of that dude from Parks & Rec (which i’ve not seen). He waltzes over, amongst rowdy Brits, longingly looks me in the eyes and says “Where you from baby?” My eyes widened and stomach lurched as if I was about to be sick. Baby. BABY? I threw a strange look at Ian and Hannah and blurted “well, firstly you just called me baby and that’s weird as FUCK! But I’m from England.” The poor guy looked so confused and asked Ian and Hannah whether that’s an odd thing to graft with in England and the obviously said yes. I stiffened by body language in hope he’d leave and he did… for little bit. I glance down and he’s in the pool reaching his hand out to me and says “come here I want to tell you something”. I’m not fucking stupid nor am I interested after that monstrosity of a pick-up line and terrible accent. “Yeah no fucking way, you’re just going to pull me in and I don’t want to because it’s full of beer and piss. I’m not stupid” I replied without an ounce of flirtation in my voice and continued boogying. He tried this 2 or 3 more times before he got out and approached me again. I can’t remember what he asked but my response was “I’m not interested nor am I here to pull, I just want to have fun” and finally this guy left me alone or so I thought. He came towards me a little later – me, dripping wet with chlorine, beer and probably piss because I’d been pushed in by Sam – and bitterly said “I thought you didn’t want to go in the pool.” I had no words. This guy kept pushing his luck after being told no by me and my friends. I just. I did a real life big sigh just now thinking about it.
Christmas Day this year was a whole lot better than the last – I wasn’t alone eating cheesecake and crying. I had just arrived on Ko Lanta, the place where I became overwhelmed with a fatigue and a low swing of depression, and the hostel was grilling up an afternoon Christmas BBQ for the guests. Slacklines was a proper “in with the nature” type of place with bamboo built huts a little way out in the forest, I was eaten alive by mozzies for those three nights. A few hours after our stomachs stopped bulging from potato salad, coleslaw and grilled animal flesh (not sorry) our feet began getting impatient, we wanted to dance. Mushroom Bar was our dancing destination. The wooden walls are painted in neon memoirs of all the dancers that have been before.
Do you know what? I can’t be bothered to finish writing. I’ve been staring at this white screen with black pixels formed in the shape of letters for 13 days and I can’t seem to find the energy to finish it.